Nielloed Silver: Variety of Shades, Features of Black Jewelry, Antique Blacksmithing Techniques

Nielloed silver - a popular material for creating jewelry masterpieces. It seamlessly combines the heritage of the past, modern trends, and an unusual appearance.

Silver and its types

Silver belongs to the main group of precious metals, which are united by inertness, natural rarity, high ductility. This element has a silvery-white color, better thermal conductivity and can reflect up to 95% of light.

In its purest form metal Silver is not used for jewelry because it is not strong enough. Silver is alloyed with various additives to improve its wear resistance, casting qualities, hue, and melting point.

Nielloed silver
Blackened earrings and ring

There are several varieties of moon metal that differ in the way they are decorated. The same silver alloy can look different when finishing operations such as blackening or filigree art are applied to it.


The appearance of the matte metal resembles sterling. This technology is used to create exclusive souvenir products, decor items, and writing utensils.

The matte alloy consists of 92.5% silver. Usually the remainder is copper, but sometimes the material is alloyed with other impurities.

The surface of the material can acquire a matte finish with one of the following operations:

  • Treatment with a sandblaster;
  • Application of vibroheating;
  • Exposure to a special essence;

Sandblast matting is used in large factories because this method is the most expensive. Inside the machine, which treats the surface, special granules are loaded. Using mechanical action, they give the surface a matte finish.

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Vibro heating is used in cases where the use of a sandblaster is not possible. The device allows you to mat elements of any complexity and size.

The effect of the essence is to apply a special composition to the surface. During the course of the reaction, the material becomes matte.

Silverware with niello
Silver Blackening Techniques


Normally the alloy contains 90% of lunar metal and 10% of copper, although in some countries, such as China and England, the deviation precious metal may be higher or lower. There is no international alloy standard.

The interesting fact is that the coin metal is not used for coinage. This name has been attached to it since antiquity, when people brought silver money to be melted down.


Filigree is a special technique that uses an openwork pattern of the finest metal wire. The elements of the pattern are connected together by soldering.

Filigree silver is a 960-grade alloy. It is used to create the finest threads that jewelers form into openwork patterns.

The homeland of filigree metal is considered Egypt, from where the technique has spread around the world. The technique can be used to produce any kind of decorations.

Filigreed silver
Filigree silver with openwork patterns


Nielloed silver, what is it?

Originally, a special technology allowing to create original and unique items was known only in the East. Nowadays, black silver is a real classic in the world of jewelry.

Silver niello is used not only to give the product an unusual appearance, but also to mask the traces soldering or surface scratches.

Blacking on silver is a contrast of white and black tone, which is achieved by special dyeing.

What is niello. History of the emergence of the technique

The technique of silver nielloing has been known since the dawn of civilization. The oldest work, a blackened silver horn found inside a pagan burial site, dates back to the end of the 9th century.

Nielloed silver
Nielloed Silver Jewelry

In Russia niello metal began in the 10th century, archaeologists have found many pendants, bracelets, lunnits of that era, treated with this technique. Silver niello has become a real diamond in the crown of Russian jewelry art. The traditions of the ancient craft have been preserved by many craftsmen to the present day.

Briefly, the method can be described as follows: the ground black is sprinkled on the surface of the metal, previously subjected to engraving. The surface is burned, after which a black tone appears on it, firmly fused with the base.

Silver can be blackened, gold, platinum, and many other metals.

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Shades of Ink

The final result can have a gray, black, or light shade. Masters of blacking are able to create any tone that is perfect for a particular job.

Methods of obtaining nielloed silver

There are several ways to get niello on a precious metal. Silver alloys tend to oxidize over time, but nielloing can easily hide this flaw.

Silver blackening
Silver bracelet with niello

Mechanical method

The technology involves the manual application of dark patterns. First, a special paste of graphite with iron oxide and a small amount of turpentine is made. This paste is used to cover those areas of the piece that will contrast with the silver background.

The product is allowed to dry completely, after which the excess paste is removed with a soft cloth soaked in alcohol.

A variation of the mechanical method is electrolysis. Both methods are suitable for home use.

The chemical method

The chemical method is the most common because it is easy to implement and also promotes the formation of a durable coating.

Step by step, the process looks like this:

  1. The product with the engraving is sprinkled with manganese, copper, sulfur, lead. The amount of sulfur will determine the final shade, the more there is, the deeper the tone.
  2. The object is placed inside the oven. Under the influence of temperature, the talcum powder becomes embedded in the relief of the object.
  3. The finished work is removed from the oven and allowed to cool.


The method involves alternately placing the object to be treated inside special essences. The technology makes it possible to obtain a uniform coating on surfaces of any complexity inexpensively.

Oxidized metal is often passed off as blackened metal. The materials are visually similar, but differ greatly in quality.

Classic silver nielloing is more durable. The oxide film obtained chemically will wear off much faster. The service life of such a coating will depend on the thickness of the layer applied.

Rhodium and ruthenium

Rhodium is a rare noble metal. It is used to protect silver from warping and to dye it gray-black.

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The rhodium-plating process consists of three steps:

  1. Polishing the object, sanding, degreasing.
  2. Immersion of the object inside a galvanic bath with a solution of rhodium salts.
  3. Deposition of rhodium atoms on lunar metal.

The thickness of 1.2 microns makes it possible to enhance the protective and decorative qualities of silver many times over. The cold luster of rhodium combines particularly well with diamonds.

Ruthenium is a platinum group metal. It can be silvery-white, matte, or raven-colored.

Ruthenium is harder than platinum and does not react with aggressive chemicals. Lunar metal coated with ruthenium has additional hardness and resistance.

Silvering at home
Grinding silver jewelry

Black silver price per gram

The cost of silveralloy It depends on its purity. Buy jewelry made of nielloed silver can be found in various jewelry boutiques, pawnshops, pawn shops, on the Internet sites.

In order to find out the current cost of ferrous metal, it is convenient to use the table:

SamplePrice per gram
960180 rubles
925160 rubles
875130 rubles

The actual cost depends largely on the pricing policy of the selling store.

The use of nielloed silver

The material has many fans all over the world. The "vintage effect" attracts customers of all ages, and gives craftsmen a wide range of possibilities for creativity.

During Soviet times, the Northern Niello Factory was established to produce items in accordance with Russian traditions. Silver items are decorated with mythical images of Ancient Russia, panoramas of cities, and floral ornaments. The Severnaya Chernia product catalog is astounding in its diversity and expands year by year.

The relevance of black silver jewelry

Every jewelry boutique offers a wide assortment of products made of black moon metal. In the shop windows you can see rings, earrings, chains, rings, pendants, bracelets, amulets made of this material.

Kubachi, a Dagestani village with a legendary forge of exclusive blackened metal objects, is in great demand. Kubachi craftsmanship technology is kept secret, all items are created by hand. Kubachi craftsmen use special techniques of ornamentation, such as tutta, markharay, and tamga.

The blackened precious metal is used to create collections of famous jewelry houses, it is perfect for the most stylish design solutions.

Stones for nielloed silver

Often items are encrusted with amethysts, amber, cubic zirconia, diamonds, and pearls. These stones look the most advantageous with the black and white material.

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Silver ring with stones

As a rule, if the jewelry is inlaid with precious minerals, the silver alloy will have 925 proof.

Cutlery in antique style

Nielloing allows you to make even the most ordinary cutlery more expressive. A great advantage of silver niello is that no regular cleaning is necessary.

Black precious metal is used to create spoons, forks, knives, coffee pots, vases, glasses, decanters, pitchers, cups, salt shakers, plates.

The services of the Pavlovo, Voronezh and Veliky Ustyug factories are very popular.

Advantages and disadvantages of blackened silver jewelry

The material has a number of undeniable advantages:
Attractive appearance;
Does not require careful regular maintenance;
It has bactericidal, antifungal, antiseptic action;
Stronger than ordinary silver;
The disadvantages include the following characteristics:
More expensive than uncoated precious metal;
You can't clean with many traditional methods;
Cutlery in antique style
Silver with niello

Care and storage

Jewelry is perfect for classic outfits, will be the highlight of a festive image, suitable for everyday wear. It is better to refrain from wearing it with sports suits.

It is advisable to remove the jewellery before cleaning, visiting the swimming pool or exercising. If your jewelry is inlaid with precious stones, you should protect it from contact with chemicals and direct sunlight.

Store your jewelry separately from other jewelry, and jewelry pouches or boxes with soft interior padding are ideal for this purpose. Chalk or silica gel can be placed inside the jewelry box to absorb excess moisture.

It is also advisable to store chains and rings separately, this will help avoid jams.

Methods of cleaning at home

It is much easier to care for silver niello than for a naturally colored metal. The dark surface is not susceptible to the formation of a gray film and plaque. However, it must be cleaned of accumulated dirt.

How to clean a silver chain from blackness
Cleaning a silver chain

Soap solution

To prepare the solution, you will need soap, baking soda, and running water.

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A piece of soap is dipped into a container of water, and a little baking soda is added. The liquid will become turbid, then the blackened object can be put in the bottom of the container. After 20 minutes, the item should be removed, rinsed with clean water, and wiped dry.

Raw potatoes

This simple method will require clear a raw potato, pour cold water over it, place the object to be peeled, and leave it for 5 hours.

After removing the product should be rinsed, gently polished with a cloth with a coarse lint.

Soda with foil

To prepare the solution, dissolve 20 grams of baking soda in 250 ml of running water.

Soda for cleaning
Tinfoil and baking soda as a cleaning agent

The resulting liquid can be used as a cleaning agent.


The easiest cleaning method - rub the jewelry with an ordinary eraser. You should be especially careful to scrub hard-to-reach places.

After cleaning, the jewelry should be rinsed and wiped dry.

Ways to blacken silver at home

It is possible to give the moon metal an unusual dark shade on your own. It is worth bearing in mind that the described methods will have a temporary effect. The dark shade will not be as persistent and bright as a professional blackening.

Tinting with iodine

The method is ideal for products that have a three-dimensional pattern.

It is necessary to moisten a cotton swab with iodine, rub the reagent on the pattern, and leave it to dry completely. After that, you need to wipe the pattern with a damp cloth, preapplying a little fluoride-free toothpaste. Convex parts of the surface will become light, hard-to-reach darken.

Silver blackening with iodine
Patination of silver with iodine

Exposure to a boiled egg

A brief description of the method is as follows:

  1. The chicken egg should be boiled, peeled, divided into two parts.
  2. The egg is placed inside a container with an airtight lid. In this container you need to hang it by a string silverware.
  3. After a few hours, the product is removed.

Hydrogen sulfide vapor allows you to give the surface an even darker shade.

Using sulfur ointment and a hair dryer

Sulfur ointment is sold at any drugstore, this inexpensive remedy is great for home blackening. Sulfur causes oxidation of the moon metal, which contributes to the formation of a dark layer of silver sulfide.

The ointment should be smeared on those areas of the pattern that you want to darken. Next, you need to set the hair dryer to full power, to direct a stream of hot air on the areas to be treated.

After 5-10 minutes, you can start polishing the product with a soft cloth and fluoride-free toothpaste.

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Reaction to chamois ointment
Sulfur ointment and silver

There are many other "folk" ways of darkening metal. Methods using whitewash, sodium polysulfites, and ammonia are common. Some methods allow you to experiment with shades. The metal can be given an emerald, chestnut, or blue color.

You can also darken the precious metal with heat-resistant enamel designed specifically for this purpose. The cost of the enamel starts at 300 rubles, and it can be purchased through the "Ozon" or "WildBerries" sites.

Important: To remove the niello from the surface, you will need to heat the object with a gas torch. The procedure should be performed with extreme caution, as the pattern may melt under the influence of extreme temperature.


I bought the women's earring cloves made of blackened metal. The earrings have an unpretentious flower shape, but attract the eye due to the "vintage" material. Before I was skeptical about nielloed metal, thinking that it was an analogue of gilding. Now I'm thinking of switching completely to black silver.

Maria L., Kostroma
Svetlana K. Moscow

I order silver jewelry through the "Avito" from private craftsmen. The product is always high quality, exclusive. The last time I ordered a men's amulet for my neck. I was very pleased with it, terrific workmanship, decent quality of material.

I never thought that "niello" could be the name for beautiful jewelry. I bought several rings made of nielloed precious metal to complement my daily image. Even my husband did not stand aside, he bought a gray-black chain, it looks much more brutal than the classic chains.

Zhanna R., Stavropol

Video: blackening silver. How to blacken with your own hands

Jeweler's comment

Molokanov N.M.
Molokanov N.M.
Jeweler, experience in jewelry manufacturing 26 years.
A special technology makes it possible to give the precious metal not only an original appearance, but also to improve its performance characteristics. The objects subjected to blackening do not lose their attractive appearance, do not require regular maintenance, and look expensive. Coating with niello is a popular service in jewelry shops. Its cost and terms of performance depend on the size of an object, its complexity, presence of precious inserts.
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